An embittered Google contractor recently took to the blogosphere to sound off on what it’s really like to work at the revered tech company.
Raphaela Weissman was contracted through a staffing agency at one of Google’s peripheral offices near Seattle. In the post, she rattles off a list of amenities we’ve come to expect from the company, from “Google-colored couches” to “foosball, ping-pong, pool, and video games.” This is quickly overshadowed, however, by her razor-sharp observation that Google’s workforce, often praised for its youthful energy, is also an exploited and “uninformed workforce."
She talks candidly about Aerotek and Randstad, the two staffing companies that hire, manage, and fire contractors at Google’s Bothell office. (It sounds like a managed service provider relationship. And while she doesn't expressly state which firm hired her, we can assume it was Randstad since she claims they frequently fire based on metrics). Her accusations are many. She finishes the article by predicting that Google's name will be tarnished if it keeps operating with these staffing companies, referred to as vendors:
Someone had to sign off on the cost-cutting decision... If things continue as they are, Google will continue to lose a portion of its workforce to other companies, which make up for what they lack in caché in transparency, accountability, and fair business practices. If companies... don’t start treating their contract workers like they’re people as talented and worthy as their “real” employees, the phrase “I’m a contractor for Google” will no longer be met with gasps of awe, but with a pitying, “I’m sorry to hear that.”
Based on her critique below (my paraphrase) do you think she's correct? Do staffing agencies wedge distance between companies and their temps/contractors? Or do these problems only tend to plague managed service providers? How do you avoid these setbacks?
1. VENDOR REPRESENTATIVES DON'T HAVE A CLUE WHAT THEIR CONTRACT WORKERS DO
"[Randstad and Aerotek] are HR... unconnected with Google processes. In fact, because of confidentiality agreements, they’re technically not allowed to know the ins and outs of what their [contractors] are actually doing. This, coupled with their final say on who comes and goes, leads to frequent conversations like this one:"
VENDOR REP: I had a look at your metrics this week. Your numbers are pretty low.
CONTRACT WORKER: Yeah, I’ve been having some trouble with the tool.
VENDOR REP: Is there anything in particular we can do to help you with your prod?
CONTRACT WORKER: Well, there’s a function in the tool that [some specific function in the tool that can lead to slowing down]
VENDOR REP responds with silence, and a blank stare, since they have never seen the actual tool before, or been trained on the actual tasks CONTRACT WORKER is doing, then reiterates the need for CONTRACT WORKER to get their numbers up.
2. VENDOR REPRESENTATIVES PROMOTE, DEMOTE, DELAY, AND PAY... SLOPPILY
"Once every couple weeks... we’d receive a strange email from one of the vendors, something foreign and official-sounding, and then, a few minutes later, a retraction: “Sorry everyone, that was only meant to go to a couple people” (These emails... ranged from innocuous logistical details to less innocuous lists of employees slated to be fired). Financial incentives that [contractors] won for good performance were often delivered late. [Contractor] start dates were delayed, sometimes for months. Job duties were misrepresented. One coworker was promoted, then demoted, in the space of a couple weeks, when it was decided that the new position he’d been hired for would essentially be canceled."
3. VENDOR REPRESENTATIVES IGNORE COMPLAINTS ABOUT THE WORKPLACE ENVIRONMENT
"My own experience in this was limited to asking once, foolishly, if there was any way to get the noise level down in the area where I worked. (I had, after all, been asked if there was anything they could do to help me with my poor numbers.) I was told that this was a “casual environment” and that the noisiness was par for the course... On the occasions when there was an accusation of something un-ignorable, like sexual harassment, people contacted vendors and were essentially ignored. They were told they could move their seats away from the offending parties, but no one was formally fired for those accusations."
4. VENDOR REPRESENTATIVES OBSESS OVER METRICS
"Google higher-ups were telling us to slow down and be careful. They were yelling at pod leads [vendors in charge of small groups] for letting us get sloppy. Meanwhile, the vendors, whom Google had entrusted with the final say on hiring and firing decisions, still had nothing to go on but numbers, because the details of the processes were a mystery to them. No matter how many times it was stressed to go slow and focus on quality, these words of wisdom ultimately meant nothing to the people who held our jobs in the palms of their hands."
5. HIRING ONLY REFERRALS LEADS TO A LACK OF DIVERSITY
"[Randstad and Aerotek]’s first crack at hiring always goes to references from current [contractors], who are offered bonuses for a successful referral. This kind of networking is one of the ways that workplaces stay homogenous, and keeps some minority groups in such low numbers in corporate offices like this one."
6. VENDOR REPRESENTATIVES FAVOR CONTRACTORS WHO 'COZY UP' TO THEM
"In your first week at Google Bothell, it’s likely that someone will take you aside and advise you to cozy up to your vendors, be they Aerotek or Randstad; that being chummy, stopping by to say hello unsolicited, will go a long way down the line if you should run into trouble with, say— you guessed it — your numbers. Don’t we understand that this is not the way a modern workplace is supposed to, well, work?"